Magazine article Mother Jones

Rad Woman Being Loud

Magazine article Mother Jones

Rad Woman Being Loud

Article excerpt

How tUnE-yArDs makes mincemeat of pop conventions

MerrillGarbus.the ^-year-old embodiment of the musical sensation and copy editor's nightmare known as tUnE-yArDs, arrives for our interview at an Oakland café clad in a cacophony of black, hot pink, and bright green. A highlighter-yellow scarf is thrown haphazardly about her neck. Her signature asymmetric hairdo is somehow chaotic and deliberate at the same time. Her smile is huge, her voice booming, her vibe effortlessly effusive.

It'sall in a day's work for Garbus, who burstonto the indie-pop scene in 2009, upending the status quo in a genre whose performers seldom stray far from established boundaries of cool: tUnE-yArDs' scratchy self-recorded debut, BiRd-BrAiNs, featured a solo Garbus banging drums, picking on her uke, and weaving quirky harmonies from her immensely versatile voice by means of a looping device. Impressed, the Pixies' old label, 4AD, reissued a vinyl version and signed her up for the next album. She moved to Oakland from Montreal, recruited a kindred spirit, bassist Nate Brenner, to round out her sound, and that was that.

In tUnE-yArDs, music meets performance art; Garbus combines face paint, homemade costumes, African-influenced beats and melodies, and in-your-face physical elements to raw, rapturous effect: Take the video for her song "Bizness," offzon's whofc///, wherein Garbus and a troupe of look-alike dancers twist and contort grotesquely like grown children feigning insanity or ecstasy. "What drove me with tUnE-yArDs," she explains, "is I wasn't seeing women aside from like Peaches or Ani DiFranco pushing the boundaries of what it is to be an accepta ble female pop star. …

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